Chameleons

Do Chameleons Have Teeth?

Chameleons look like little color-changing dragons.  They’re mellow and calm temperaments don’t often lend themselves to aggression.  But, if they sense danger, they do exhibit signs.  So, it begs the question, do chameleons have teeth?  Yes, they do.

Do Chameleons Have Sharp Teeth?

Chameleons have very sharp teeth composed of calcium.  But they are sharp enough to do what they need in regards to fighting off rivals and eating.  Nature designed Chameleons to chew their food rather than swallowing things whole.  These little teeth help Chameleons catch and hold prey larger than themselves too.  When insects are scarce, they will eat worms and other small mammals.

Are Chameleons Teeth Visible?

Because their teeth are so tiny, they’re difficult to see and why many people mistakenly believe they’re toothless.  You can see them, but you will have to look at them up close.  This might be difficult because they don’t like anyone or anything getting too close.

Their teeth sit in a single row on the top and bottom of the jaw.  On average and depending on the specific species, they have 15 to 22 teeth.  It will look like little serrations when they open their mouths.

Can Chameleons Replace Their Teeth?

Chameleon’s teeth are acrodont, which means they don’t have roots like humans and their teeth come fused into the jaw.  So, they can’t replace their teeth once they lose them.  When Chameleons come into the world, they have the same set of teeth for their entire lives.

It’s not normal for Chameleons to lose their teeth, so when this happens it should be alarming to anyone who owns one.  It’s imperative to take it to the vet as soon as possible to find out the cause.  If Chameleons don’t have their teeth, they can’t eat and that spells out obvious problems.

Why Would a Chameleon’s Teeth Fall Out?

Once the teeth are gone, that’s it.  They will not regrow and will have to live without them.  There are several reasons why teeth might fall out. 

  • Fighting for territory or females is one of the more common reasons a Chameleon loses its teeth because they bite as hard as they can in a battle situation.  The pressure from this can and does force them to lose a tooth or two.  
  • The same is true when they mistake small rocks as insects or biting on a branch or the cage trying to eat food.  So, chomping on a hard object may also cause the teeth to come loose and fall out.    
  • Another reason could be due gum recession, which is a common problem for many lizards as they age.  Just as the teeth don’t regenerate, neither will the gums.  When receding occurs, it exposes the teeth which make them vulnerable to damage and loss.
  • If a Chameleon doesn’t get enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals, it can cause them to lose their teeth.  Weak immune systems or parasitic infestations can also be distinct causes.

Is There a Way to Prevent Tooth Loss in Chameleons?

Taking good care of a pet Chameleon will be the ultimate in prevention.  The best way to do this is to ensure they have a well-balanced diet along with monthly calcium supplements.  You should plan yearly visits to the vet to catch any developing issues with their gums or teeth. 

Do not attempt to brush a Chameleon’s teeth on your own.  If you think they need cleaning, have the vet do this.  They will have the tools and knowledge necessary to ensure clean teeth without damaging the Chameleon or getting bitten.

If you have more than one Chameleon, do not house them together.  This is truer for males than females, but you should keep all sexes far apart from one another.  More aggressive males will bite females.  It’s possible they could lose their teeth in such a confrontation.

How Big Are Chameleons Teeth?

Chameleons have very small, spiky teeth that look like little conical triangles.  The teeth in the front of the jaw tend to be smaller than ones in the back.  They’re often tricuspids with enamel.  It is unclear what the exact length and measurement of Chameleon’s teeth are.

Does a Chameleon’s Bite Hurt?

A bite from a Chameleon will hurt.  It won’t be excruciating, but it won’t be pleasant either.  So, a Chameleon’s bite isn’t like a dog or a cat but it can sometimes pierce flesh and draw blood.  It’s a slight stinging sensation, something like a paper cut.

Although small, the teeth can pierce insects like beetles, crickets and locusts.  Males also use their teeth when fighting over territory and mating.  They push and bite each other as hard as they can.  So, because of their natural propensity to bite for eating crunchy food and fending off rivals, they will hurt humans too.

If they’re mad at you or don’t jive with your desire to cuddle, a Chameleon will bite you as a message to leave it alone.  That said, Chameleons won’t bite unless they have good reason to do so.  They usually bite as a last ditch effort to protect and defend themselves.

Why Do Chameleons Bite?

Most of the time, a Chameleon will bite when it feels threatened, nervous or sacred.  They will bite anything that presents an upset to their status quo, which includes humans.  But, there are some other reasons too.

If they’re really hungry or thirsty, they’ll bite fingers.  Also, Chameleons are not a cuddly or affectionate type of creature and they don’t like human handing.  They prefer their solitude among plants and trees.  So, handling Chameleons puts them under a certain amount of stress and this can result in them biting.

Do Chameleons Give a Warning Before They Bite?

When a Chameleon is about to bite, they display signals before hand that can help humans avoid it.  If they feel threatened, they’ll change colors to some shade of dark black.  If you get close and they immediately shift into a darker color, stay away.  This is a sure sign they’re about to bite.

Another common precursor to biting is hissing.  They are warning you not to get any closer because they’re about to bite if you do.  Many Chameleons will also stare with both eyes intensely when they feel threatened or angered. 

If their eyes lock onto you and your every move, in addition to hissing or changing to a dark color, they are telling you they’re going to bite if you get any closer.  Chameleons will also puff themselves up, run away, hide or raise their leg.

What Do You Do When They Exhibit Signs of Displeasure?

When they exhibit this kind of communication, it’s important to respect their space and stay away.  This will help the Chameleon trust you and let them know you’re their friend, not their enemy who’s going to hurt them. 

Once you’ve established a solid relationship, it may be more willing to let you pick it up once and awhile.  But, until that happens, you will have to employ patience when taming your Chameleon.  This includes a dedicated effort to learn how it communicates.

What Do You Do When They Bite You?

In the event you do receive a Chameleon’s bite, don’t panic.  They won’t latch onto your finger.  More often than not, they’ll open their jaw back up right after.  Unlike other reptiles, their bite doesn’t have any poison. 

That said, some species do have a certain amount of salmonella in their mouths, which can present problems for people.  So, in the event of receiving a bite, wash your hands well and pay attention to the site for infection.  Chances are, the bite will hurt them more than you, so try to inspect the Chameleon’s jaw for any missing teeth. 

But, if you get bitten by a Chameleon in the wild, they may have toxins due to disease or other insects they ate.  In this case, even though the bite will be small and insignificant, you must seek out medical attention right away.

How Do You Prevent a Chameleon from Biting You? 

Never handle an aggressive Chameleon unless absolutely necessary, like for health reasons.  If you have to handle it when it’s upset, put on some thicker gloves.  These will offer protection from possible infection and any injury from the bite.

Then, grab it by the back of the neck so that it won’t turn its head around and bite you.  Don’t grab them too hard and try not to restrain their movement too much.  There’s a bit of a finesse you must strive for when handling them.

Will Their Cage and Home Environment Help Prevent Biting?

How much room they have will play a huge factor in whether a Chameleon will bite and the frequency with which they bite.  Make sure it’s cage has plenty of plants and foliage so it can hide when it feels threatened or frightened. 

Remember, they’ll often go for evasive maneuvers before outright biting or attacking.  Biting is something they do when they think all other attempts to protect themselves fail.  So, if they have enough hiding places, they might just hiss and run rather than turn dark and bite.

When having more than one Chameleon, understand it’s in their nature to be territorial.  During their mating season, Chameleons are much more aggressive toward any other Chameleons in the vicinity, which includes their owner by proxy. 

Conclusion

So, yes, Chameleons do have teeth.  They have a single row of sharp, spiky teeth that lines their jaw.  They use these for eating and fighting.  It may not seem like it because of how small their jaws are and it’s not like most people get close enough to inspect them.  But, they are there.   

A Chameleon’s teeth are with them from birth all the way through their lives, so if they lose one, it’s gone for good.  If you own one of these fantastic creatures, you want to make sure their teeth stay healthy, clean and in good working condition.  Without them, they won’t be able to eat, let alone defend themselves.

And, sometimes they do bite humans.  Although this isn’t cause for great concern, it can hurt to an annoying degree.  So long as you wash the bite afterwards and monitor it for infection, it should be fine. However, if you get bit in the wild, you have to go to a doctor as soon as possible because Chameleons can and do have toxins in their mouths.

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